For those who are new to intuitive eating, the idea of “making peace” with food might seem a bit confusing. What does it mean and how do you get there? While everyone’s journey is unique, there are some common elements. Let’s use the example of ice cream, a food that many people feel conflicted about. It’s cold, sweet, creamy, and delicious, and yet we’re not supposed to overindulge.
We are at war with ice cream because we’ve heard that it’s not healthy. We deny ourselves in order to adhere to a diet that is supposed to make us feel better, but instead, we feel worse. Nobody wants to be deprived. In fact, the sense of deprivation ultimately drives us to binge, and then we feel guilty. The guilt lowers our self esteem and gives way to thoughts about trying harder to control ourselves next time, which starts another round of the deprivation cycle.
So, if denying ourselves ice cream is not the answer, what is? Making peace. You may fear that if you give yourself full permission to eat something like ice cream, that your consumption will get out of control. In fact, the opposite is true. Studies show that when we are constantly exposed to a food, and are free to eat as much of it as we want, we become habituated to that food. Just like like the leftovers you’ve been eating all week, ice cream can lose its allure. However, making peace with food is often not as simple as telling yourself you have full permission to eat it.
Be on the lookout for other factors that drive you to eat “problem” foods. Do you find yourself craving ice cream after dinner? Consider whether you’re getting your nutritional needs met during the day. Do you find yourself craving ice cream when you’re stressed or feeling down? Maybe it’s time to work on emotional eating. You might also consider your history with ice cream. Was it used as a treat or a reward when you were a child? If you’re having trouble sorting all of this out, maybe it’s time to start working with an intuitive eating coach.
Whatever you do, make sure you are not trying to trick yourself into getting tired of a food you love to eat. It should go without saying, but there’s no tricking yourself. If you think, “I’ll let myself have as much ice cream as I want… unless it gets to be too much,” you’re still secretly trying to control yourself. So, no pseudo-permission to eat! Reconnect with your inner wisdom, trust your inner intuitive eater, and get support if you need it.